ADL task force to combat anti-Semitic abuse of journalists

June 1, 2016  

(JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League has announced a task force to look into the anti-Semitic harassment online, including death threats, of journalists covering the 2016 presidential campaign.

Its members will include at least two journalists who were targeted by self-described followers of Donald Trump after writing about the presumptive GOP candidate’s campaign for president.

The Task Force on Hate Speech and Journalism, announced this week, was established after the ADL said it has been contacted by journalists from across the political spectrum who have faced harassment and anti-Semitic messages in response to their coverage.

“Journalists are used to being criticized, but this election cycle we repeatedly have seen criticism quickly cross the line into ugly anti-Semitic and other hateful attacks including death threats,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s chief executive, said in a news release.

Among those who have reported receiving anti-Semitic abuse on social media are CNN’s Jake Tapper, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times.

Though the vast majority of the harassment has targeted journalists reporting on Trump, and come from sources that identify themselves as his supporters, the ADL news release did not mention the Republican candidate.

Among those who will serve on the task force are Julia Ioffe, a prominent freelancer who wrote a GQ profile of Melania Trump, the candidate’s wife, and Bethany Mendel, a contributor to the New York Post and the Jewish Daily Forward, who both were targeted by violent social media messages. Mendel wrote about the experience in an article titled “My Trump Tweets Earned Me So Many Anti-Semitic Haters That I Bought a Gun” and Ioffe filed a police report after the barrage of abuse.

Joining them, among others, are Leon Wieseltier, a contributing editor at The Atlantic; Shawn Henry, a retired executive assistant director of the FBI, and Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism at Columbia University.

The task force aims to “assess the scope and source” of harassment of journalists, determine if and how the trend impacts the electorate “or if it has a chilling effect on free speech,” and “propose solutions and/or countermeasures.” Its work dovetails with that of ADL’s Center on Extremism, which has been monitoring and addressing online harassment for decades.

“ADL has been monitoring, studying, and speaking out against anti-Semitism, racism, and other hate for years,” Greenblatt said. “We hope to bring our experience to this latest manifestation of it so we can take steps to address this challenge even as we strive to ensure that we do not jeopardize free speech and a free press.”

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